Town sees holes in Siller Ranch proposal
January 6, 2004
An eight-page letter from the town of Truckee is on its way to Placer County’s planning department, pointing out what the town sees as glaring deficiencies in the Siller Ranch proposal’s draft Environmental Impact Report.
The Siller Ranch project proposes a gated community of 726 residential units, two private golf courses, a private ski area and a 500-seat amphitheater for a 2,177-acre area bordering the Lahontan community off of Schaffer Mill Road. Truckee town officials see the project snarling the town’s traffic, exacerbating a local affordable housing shortage, and compromising water quality, while proposing mitigation that is inadequate in many cases.
The letter reflects the concern and consternation over the draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) voiced by the council at the Dec. 18 Truckee Town Council meeting. At the meeting Mayor Josh Susman said the DEIR represented “a cavalier disregard for a lot of issues” and that the mitigation proposed for the project was ludicrous.
The first concern listed in the letter, and the hottest topic at the council meeting, was housing. While Placer County Planning Director Fred Yeager said that Placer County staff will demand applicants include affordable and employee housing in the project, the DEIR was formulated with no inclusion of either in the proposal.
Truckee, struggling with its own affordable housing issues, balked at the prospect of bearing the brunt of housing for 387 workers – the number of jobs the DEIR approximates will be created by the project. This problem is augmented by the fact that virtually no new affordable housing is being created in Martis Valley, said the letter.
“The town is shocked that the county would actively process a project that blatantly ignores the clear direction of the board of supervisors that larger projects generating new employment need to be directly responsible for providing employee/affordable housing to address 50 percent of the project’s housing impacts,” the letter read.
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The letter questioned why the DEIR was completed without the inclusion of affordable housing, which would have to total a significant 100-140 units to house 50 percent of the workers, according to data in the letter.
Quoting the Martis Valley Plan and the Placer County General Plan, the letter noted that the proposal does little to fulfill housing requirements, and that “a gated entry at the end of Schaffer Mill Road and an apparent overall attempt to exclude the greater community from the development” is contrary to portions of the county’s general plan.
“This is a real test of Placer County’s intentions on housing impacts, said Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook at the Dec. 18 council meeting. “The housing impacts of this project are as big as we have seen.”
The letter added, “The town believes the developer and the county can do better.”
The project is also expected to require the improvement of several main intersections to keep up with increased traffic loads; the letter projected that town streets would bear 33 percent of all new external trips associated with the development. In each case the DEIR suggested a “fair share” contribution for the improvements. The town agreed with the percentages of contribution, but had differences in what changes needed to be made. At state Route 89 south and Donner Pass Road, the town suggested the developer contribute to a roundabout instead of the DEIR’s suggestion of more minor alterations.
The town reiterated its opposition to expanding state Route 267 to four lanes as a solution to the traffic problem. Instead, it proposed that the developer create a full internal connection from the entrance at Schaffer Mill Road to Northstar-at-Tahoe, which would reduce vehicle trips on state Route 267.
Water quality – with 27 holes of golf planned for the project, three existing courses nearby, and two more planned for the area – remains a concern with the town, the letter said. These concerns are even more relevant since the project area lies within the Martis Creek watershed.
“…So many golf courses located within the Martis Creek watershed demands the development of a holistic, systematic approach to monitoring surface and ground water impacts,” said the letter.
The town is not the only one that has raised concerns over the proposal. Terrell Watt Planning Consultants submitted a letter representing Sierra Watch, HELP Northstar, and Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, which highlighted tree loss, wetland delineation, water quality and housing as concerns. It also questioned the timing of the project, which was being processed before the passage of the new Martis Valley Community Plan, and therefore governed by a plan developed in the 1970s.